Two in Three Americans Favor Enhancing Women’s Status in Society

NEW YORK, N.Y. – March 10, 2017 –   As Americans took part in International Women’s Day, a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity, a new Harris Poll finds that two in three Americans (66%) say they favor efforts to strengthen and change women’s status in society.     

The Harris Poll has been measuring Americans’ opinions on women’s status in society since the early 1970s when the Equal Rights Amendment was making its way through Congress – during a four year period between 1971 and 1975, the proportion of U.S. adults who favored efforts to strengthen and change women’s status in society gained 17 percentage points from 42% in 1971 to 59% in 1975.    Since 1975, support grew from 59% to 66%.

  • Men and women are about equally likely to favor improving women’s social status in society (68% men, 64% women).
  • While more than 4 in 5 Democrats (83%) favor strengthening women’s status in society, just over half of Republicans (52%) and nearly two-thirds of Independents (64%) feel the same way.

In comparing the trends since 1971, progress was more rapidly achieved in the period from 1971 to 1975, while the gains in support between 1975 and 2017 are less pronounced. The opposition has declined quite readily over this timeframe, with only 7% of the public opposing efforts to strengthen women’s status in society today. Even so, over one-fourth of the public (27%) is uncertain whether they favor or oppose – with more women (30%) than men (24%) stating they are unsure.   

“The nation has certainly come a long way since 1971, yet the increasing uncertainty and politically polarized public points toward the imperative for continued progress for women in modern society,” says Carol Gstalder, Senior Vice President for The Harris Poll.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,106 U.S. adults aged 18+ surveyed online between March 3 and 7, 2017.

A movement or a moment?

The U.S. public is fairly split on whether they think the Women’s March on January 21, following the inauguration, was a single moment in time event (48%) versus the beginning of an enduring movement (52%).

  • Women (55%) are slightly more likely than men (49%) to say it is the beginning of an enduring movement.
  • Republicans (73%) are far more likely than Independents (49%) or Democrats (22%) to view the march as a single moment in time.

Women (91%) are viewed as bearing the bulk of the responsibility for improving the lives of American women, followed by men (78%), business (75%), schools (73%), communities (72%), the media (63%), and government (62%).

“There are many issues at the forefront for continued progress – including greater access to education, equal pay, access to affordable healthcare, protection against violence, and the role of women in leadership,” said Gstalder. “Clearly these results indicate everyone must work together to improve the lives of women and girls in this country, but women themselves continue to be viewed as being the most in charge of changing their own destiny.”




This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between March 3 and 7, 2017 among 2,106 adults aged 18+. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.  Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Note: In 1971-1975, this survey was conducted by telephone.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

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The Harris Poll® #10, March 10, 2017

By Kathy Steinberg, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll